LFF 2020 TV review: A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura
Ivan Radford | On 10, Oct 2020
A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura is streaming online as part of the 2020 London Film Festival. For more on how the festival works, click here.
The London Film Festival has, over the years, shone a spotlight on a number of TV series, from Little Drummer Girl to Black Mirror. For its online edition, though, it’s come up with something slightly rarer from the small screen: a chance to catch a TV show directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura.
While it would be tempting to credit Koreeda with everything on show, it’s not a project that’s solely his – the director has helmed two episodes of the eight-part series, with other episodes directed by Santa Yamagishi, Satoko Yokohama and Megumi Tsuno. The common thread in the show – better known as Kasumi Arimura’s Filming Break – is its star, who is playing a fictionalised version of herself. The fascinating thing about Episode 1, streaming at the festival, is the chance to see Koreeda fit his distinctive tone and style into a collaborative project.
And so we meet Arimura, an actor whose show is interrupted mid-production, giving her an unexpected day off – a format that will lead to eight different tales as she enjoys a surprise break from her professional life. In this episode, written by Sakura Higa, we see Arimura visit her mother, returning to the place of her childhood.
It’s a homecoming that’s as sweet as it is subtly awkward, as we immediately see her celebrity status clash with her more normal upbringing. Even going to the supermarket, she’s recognised by a fan, something that she might not enjoy but her mother leans into, loving the chance to show her daughter off. But things really kick into gear when Arimura returns to the family home itself, and they find themselves welcoming an unexpected male guest for dinner.
What ensues is a delicate but deep dive into memories and loss, and Koreeda steers the show through these waters with his trademark mix of heart and humour. His understated approach to storytelling is, despite the notably different budget, ideally suited to dipping into the everyday lives of a family in a TV drama – particularly when food preparation and sharing is involved, the importance of which Koreeda’s work always understands, both as a communal routine and an act of particular personal significance. (You can imagine Hirokazu being a natural fit for Japanese anthology series Midnight Diner.)
The cast bring all of this to the surface gently and with convincing chemistry, from Shinnosuke Mitsushima as the additional presence at the table to Arimura, who is clearly enjoying the chance to play with her screen persona; even for those unfamiliar with her work, she has a real charm and charisma. With a soundtrack that sometimes leans a little too twee and a narrative that inevitably leaves you wanting more, this is a slight offering served on its own by the London Film Festival, but as a taster menu for something that could find an international home on a streaming service, it’s a rewarding sample.
A Day-Off of Kasumi Arimura is available to stream on BFI Player at 1pm on Saturday 10th October. Book a ticket here.